EIA Exclusive: The New Labor Organization Annual Reports – What They Tell Us and What They Don’t About the Teachers’ Unions

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We are now beginning to see the first new federal Labor Organization Annual Reports (Form LM-2) submitted by teacher union affiliates. The U.S. Department of Labor changed the format and requirements of the LM-2 late in 2002 (see the January 21, 2003 EIA Communiqué story “Unions to Face Increased Federal Regulation“). The new regulations require a detailed itemization of spending, disaggregated membership numbers and accounting of agency fee payers, plus the percentage of time each union officer and employee worked on various activities, including “political activities and lobbying.”

The new report is a vast improvement over the old one, with payment amounts and recipients spelled out in exquisite detail. Previously, such payments could be batched together as contributions or fees, with individual recipients remaining anonymous. The new forms make it very clear who is receiving the union’s money (though it’s not always clear why).

Where the reports disappoint the most is in their itemizing of the percentage of time each union officer and employee spends on each of the following activities: 1) representational activities; 2) political activities and lobbying; 3) contributions; 4) general overhead; and 5) administration.

It asks union officers to make “good faith estimates” of how they spent their time.

An examination of the AFT reports shows AFT President Ed McElroy spent 6 percent of his time last year on political activities and lobbying. (It bears mentioning that last year was a Presidential election year.) State federation president estimates of their time on political activities and lobbying ranged from 30 percent (John Cole of the Texas Federation of Teachers) to 3 percent (David Hecker of AFT Michigan) to 2 percent (Debbi Covert of AFT Oregon).

The Illinois Education Association report is even more suspect. IEA President Anne Davis spent zero percent of her time on political activities and lobbying, and of the union’s 225 employees and executives, 213 reported they spent zero percent of their time on political activities and lobbying.

The new disclosure requirements allow union members and the public to better monitor the activities of these organizations, but there is still some work to be done.


Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain

“CTA is in the process of negotiating a necessary $40 million line of credit. The proposed terms for the new line of credit call for the income stream from the $60 dues increase, together with CTA’s other ongoing income, to pay back the principal and interest. If the temporary restraining order is granted, it will greatly harm or destroy CTA’s ability to get this line of credit. If CTA is unable to get this line of credit, there is a significant risk that an outstanding $20 million line will be called. Millions of CTA’s members dues dollars are possibly at stake. Therefore, the temporary restraining order would cause great financial harm to CTA and affect CTA’s ability to continue to deliver its current level of services to members over the long term. I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.” — Carlos Moreno, controller of the California Teachers Association, in a declaration to the U.S. District Court, signed September 30.

“CTA is not on the verge of being bankrupted.” — CTA President Barbara Kerr, in an October 15 open letter to members.


The Intercepts Infection – Catch It!

* United Federation of Teachers (UFT) officials are worried that the contract they negotiated with New York City will not meet the approval of the rank-and-file members. So worried, in fact, that they are become very irked with those who are organized to oppose it.

On UFT’s blog, Edwize, Leo Casey lists a great number of reasons why contract opponents are misguided and wrong, but he finishes up with this:

“And if opponents of the contract are the most loyal of teacher unionists, anxious to protect New York City public school teacher from the attacks of Bloomberg and Klein, as they tell us, why do they seek support from the most implacable, far right foes of teacher unionism and public education, such as Michael Antonucci of Intercepts?”

Yes, because I once said something “nice” about ICEUFT, the group opposed to the governing Unity Caucus, they are now infected by my rampant libertarianism and can be disregarded by correct-thinking people everywhere. Sheeesh.

Bad news, Leo. I have written about you twice — both times favorably:

July 18, 2002 (“Anti-War Resolution Defeated,” about the AFT convention’s resolution on the war in Afghanistan) — “Tania Kappner of Oakland argued that this was a ‘blank check for Bush’ to conduct all future wars. But Leo Casey of the United Federation of Teachers countered: ‘If ever there was a just war, this war is just.'”

February 2, 2004 (“Hail to the New Federalists,” about the hypocrisy of liberal Democrats opposing NCLB on the basis of states’ rights) — “Casey warned: ‘It will be most unfortunate if, in the wake of NCLB, educational progressives myopically and ahistorically wave the banner or join with those waving the banner of states’ rights or local control against the federal government. In time they may well find themselves to have been their own worst enemy.'”

Now that both sides are equally tainted by this blog, perhaps the New York City teachers contract can be voted up or down on its merits.

* If you haven’t read the newoldschoolteacher blog, get with it! I’ve placed a permanent link to it on the blogroll. “A new level of scary” is a must-read.

* Alexander Russo of This Week in Education has once again come up with a novel idea — the Education BlogMap. Check it out.


Superintendent Baked at 375 degrees for 20 Minutes

* The made-for-TV movie that is developing in the Baldwin-Whitehall school district just gets weirder and weirder. As Intercepts reported on Tuesday, school board member Beverly Coon was arrested for allegedly drugging her estranged lover, Bethel Park Superintendent Ronald Grimm, and then setting his apartment on fire. Details have now emerged that Ms. Coon was reportedly stalking Dr. Grimm and that she watched outside his apartment building as it burned, leaving the scene only after a neighbor asked her for a cell phone to call the fire department.

Oh, and Ms. Coon apparently used the sedative Temazepam baked into some pastries called ladylocks (kind of like cannoli).

This particular detail has led to a great deal of speculation and debate by the locals, some of which you can read here.

* A new Contract Hits is up.


Michigan Union Files Unfair Labor Complaint Against Chippewa Charter School

* The balloon finally went up in Sault Ste. Marie. The Michigan Education Association (MEA) filed an unfair labor practices complaint against administrators of the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe charter school on the local Chippewa reservation. Neither the tribe nor the school has been subtle in expressing displeasure over the decision of the school’s 33 teachers to unionize.

Upon hearing of the union vote, tribal leaders announced they would freeze Bureau of Indian Affairs funding that provides more than half of the school’s operating budget, though school officials say Bahweting will remain open even without that money. Tribal Chairman Aaron Payment threatened to let the school’s charter expire at the end of the year, and then open a new, non-union charter school next year, in which the teachers would be tribal employees on loan to the school.

“The Sault Tribe’s concern is with the union,” said school Superintendent Nick Oshelski. “If the union was to go away, so would the problem: that’s my feeling.”

MEA is understandably upset at this turn of events, and filed charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. MEA organizer David Crim said the situation was reminiscent of “the worst horror stories about anti-union employers from the early days of unionism in our state.”

Oshelski was the only individual named in the complaint. Ironically, Oshelski used to be the vice president of the Sault Area Education Association, a local MEA affiliate.

* It’s closing in on election day in California, and you’re likely to hear a lot of caterwauling about teachers and kids and schools, but very little about the quality of the state’s public education system. Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle reports today on California’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and math tests. She provides an excellent capsulized review of where the state has been, and how years of education reforms and vast quantities of dollars have lifted the state from the bottom of the rankings all the way up to… the bottom of the rankings. A must read.


CTA to Return At Least $316 to Fee Payers

In California, as in many other states, teachers who do not wish to join the union must still pay an agency fee. However, fee payers cannot be forced to contribute to the union’s political and ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Each year the union’s lawyers compute what percentage of the organization’s activities are chargeable to fee payers. The non-chargeable percentage is then reimbursed to the fee payer.

This week, the California Teachers Association issued its calculations for the 2005-06 school year to its estimated 30,000 fee payers. The percentages computed by CTA mean that each fee-payer will have at least $315.93 in dues money returned to him or her.

Here’s the breakdown:

* NEA dues are $140, 49 percent of which the national union has deemed is for political and ideological activities ($68.60).

* CTA dues are $543, 34.5 percent of which the state union has deemed is for political and ideological activities ($187.33).

* Additionally, CTA will refund the entire $60 special assessment for its campaign against the governor’s initiatives.

That equals a minimum of $315.93. But most California teachers also pay dues to a local CTA affiliate. The amount varies from zero to more than $200. In any case, CTA applies the state percentage to its locals as well, meaning fee payers will also get 34.5 percent of their local dues returned to them.

All told, resigning from CTA and accepting fee payer status will bring some teachers close to $400 in rebated dues.

The downside is a loss of union voting rights, liability insurance coverage, and access to member-only benefits the union offers.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation set up a handy web page outlining the procedure for becoming a fee payer for 2005-06. The deadline is November 15.


School Board Soap Opera

* I know many of you think you have the worst school board in the world, and that nothing can match the hijinks you see every day. But I’m betting you can’t top the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in Pennsylvania.

Board member Beverly Coon is up for reelection on Nov. 8, but she might have a small campaign problem since being barred from entering any district school or attending any school activity. You see, Ms. Coon was arrested last week on charges of attempted homicide, arson, risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and stalking. She was released on $100,000 bail.

While Ms. Coon was separated from her husband, she had a two-year-long affair with Dr. Ronald Grimm, the superintendent of the nearby Bethel Park School District. When Dr. Grimm tried to break off the relationship, Ms. Coon allegedly fed him sedative-laced pastries and then set his bed on fire. Dr. Grimm was burned in the fire that destroyed his apartment, but he escaped serious injury. He has not yet returned to work.

Ms. Coon’s attorney says the evidence against her is circumstantial.

The school board can ban Ms. Coon from school buildings, but it must continue to allow her to attend school board meetings. Meanwhile, Ms. Coon is running for reelection on a slate that includes Michael Stelmasczyk and Edward Moeller. Mr. Stelmasczyk has spent much of the last week covering the name of Ms. Coon on his lawn signs and campaign posters with purple tape.

“I think the stores are running out of the [purple] tape,” he said.

* It’s natural to get lost in the predicaments of the present, so it’s welcome news to hear an international research group conclude that there has been “a dramatic, but largely unknown, decline in the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuses over the past decade.”

The Human Security Report, funded by the governments of Canada, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Britain, credit this happy state of affairs on the fall of the Soviet Union. I feel an odd mix of contentment and shame that U.S. students will soon have blank looks on their faces when the subject of the U.S.S.R. arises.